While we’re constantly working on puzzles of all kinds as kids, from jigsaws for fun to word problems for math class and visual discrimination challenges like “Where’s Waldo?,” our brains are trained as children to spot unusual things and differences.
But as adults, we often get a little bit slack and think of puzzles as something silly or a waste of valuable time that could be spent doing other more important things. We couldn’t be more wrong, though, about the amazing value of puzzles for our brains’ health.
Puzzles force us to see things in ways we don’t normally do. They help keep us sharp and active mentally and can have lots of benefits for our jobs as well, especially if we’re trying to pick out something that’s different visually, like an unusually big or small number.
So today, let’s look at a visual puzzle that’s very difficult to do, especially if you hold yourself to a maximum of 10 seconds to solve it. If you’re someone who gets intimidated by math problems that give you unpleasant memories of school, don’t worry. All you have to do is count a number of objects. Not too difficult, right?
Whenever you’ve got your timer set, go for it!
Wow, 10 seconds is already up and you’re not really sure what you just saw. After a few moments, the image just looks like a big pile of pencils haphazardly stacked on each other, with no way of telling where one begins and the other ends. Plus, some of them appear a lot bigger, whereas others are much smaller.
How many did you see?
The visual effect of size actually comes from some of the pencils being closer to the lens. So why not start with the largest and go down to the smallest? Unfortunately, because they are also stacked up on top of each other, it’s difficult to figure out which one’s larger than the other the further you go down.
Another approach in crazy puzzles like this where it’s difficult to tell one thing from another is to focus on a visual detail that your eye can capture to avoid getting lost in the jumble. Let’s try the rubber erasers. They should be easy to count, since they are separated from the yellow body of the pencil by a black metal piece.
Did you get ten erasers? That must be the answer, right?
Unfortunately, it isn’t! There’s something missing. Let’s try counting again, but using another easy-to-spot part of the pencil—the stub that has been shaved so you can write. This is a white, creamy color that should be easily distinguishable from the yellow part.
And when you’re done counting, you get 11! That’s because the smallest pencil, absolutely tiny compared to the ones in the foreground, has its eraser hidden by a larger pencil that appears to be on top of it. So 11 is the correct answer!
Did you manage to figure it out another way? Why not try challenging your friends and family with this one? Don’t forget to put on the timer so they have the same pressure to figure it out quickly as you did.
And remember, a puzzle a day just might keep the doctor away, and it will certainly keep your mind sharp and strong!